Noble Women : The View from the Stands
DOI link for Noble Women : The View from the Stands
Noble Women : The View from the Stands book
In the last two chapters we have been looking at power and ideasof how it was exerted in medieval society. The basic problem with the old feudal construct was that it was too simplistic a model by which to understand medieval society. The eighteenth and nineteenth-century scholars who used it to try to understand the middle ages were all too convinced of the primitive simplicity of the medieval aristocrat. Michelet and Burckhardt, for instance, were both doubtful as to whether a medieval person was even able to understand that he was an individual set apart from other individuals. The rational and humanistic post-Enlightenment mind was also bound to be somewhat dismissive of a medieval mentality which was so uncritically religious and, as they looked at it, superstitious. Mark Twain’s imagining of a priest-ridden Arthurian society confronted with the technology of the industrial revolution is humorous, no doubt, but it was shamelessly constructed to assert the superiority of modern America over a dark, Catholic and brutal European past. Nineteenth-century writers admired medieval art and architecture, but the only thing they admired about medieval aristocrats was their fearlessness and childlike, chivalrous generosity. Conan Doyle’s portrayal of the noble Sir Nigel Loring, for instance, pictured a simple, direct soul chaperoned and manipulated by his rather brighter plebeian servants.